The legal ivory trade is failing to protect elephants which are being slaughtered en mass across the African continent to meet demand for religious trinkets, argues a new investigative report published in National Geographic by Bryan Christy.

The report, researched and written over a three year period, looked at supply and demand the elephant ivory market. It found that substantial quantities of ivory is being used to make religious trinkets including "ivory baby Jesuses and saints for Catholics in the Philippines, Islamic prayer beads for Muslims and Coptic crosses for Christians in Egypt, amulets and carvings for Buddhists in Thailand, and in China—the world's biggest ivory-consumer country—elaborate Buddhist and Taoist carvings for investors," according to a post on National Geographic News.

Ivory is coming primarily from the black market. The cost for elephants is high: a conservative estimate puts the slaughter at 25,000 elephants in 2011 alone.